How to Control Moisture in Your Basement This Summer

In recent newsletters we have discussed asbestos and household mold, a common concern in many homes. For this newsletter we wanted to focus on controlling humidity in your home, especially in the basement, which are prone to problems related to excess moisture.

RTS Environmental Services wants to help by providing you with the facts about moisture in the home so you can take the steps necessary to prevent a small problem from becoming a major crisis.

Keeping Humidity in Check

Whether you use your basement for storage or as a living area, the lower level of your home is vulnerable to damage from humidity that can eventually lead to problems with mold and mildew. Controlling the humidity in your basement is the key to creating a healthy and livable space that your entire family can enjoy.

Household occupants are usually very comfortable when the temperature and relative humidity are maintained within the ranges of 68 to 72 degrees and 25 to 50 percent relative humidity, but maintaining a proper humidity level isn’t always easy. Normal household activities such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, washing and drying clothes – even breathing and perspiring – can raise the humidity level too high.

It has been estimated that the typical family of four converts three gallons of water into water vapor per day. It takes only four to six pints of water to raise the relative humidity of a 1,000 sq. ft. house from 15 to 60 percent. To avoid the problems of excess moisture it is necessary to limit or control the amount of water vapor in the house.

For effective humidity control in your home, follow these suggestions:

  1. Ensure that the exterior of your home has a sloped grade and moves water away from the foundation.
  2. Extend the down spouts by at least 3 feet away from your foundation and assure the gutters are free of debris.
  3. Operate a dehumidifier in the basement especially after heavy rain and humid weather.
  4. Additional air movement also helps to mix humid air with dry air allowing a dehumidifier to be more effective at drying. Operate an inexpensive circulating fan in rooms with poor ventilation.
  5. Check your clothes dryer vent to assure it is pushing its exhaust outside and not into your house or attic.
  6. Retrofit your HVAC unit (Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning) to provide effective return inlets low to the basement floor if one does not exist now.

We can help answer these questions…

Contact Information
RTS Environmental Services, Inc.
Tel: 1-800-722-5589
301-607-6276 Maryland Line
Fax: 301-831-6235

Signs You May Have Mold in Your Home

Mold in Your Northern Virginia Home

Mold growth is all about moisture, so it stands to reason if you live in the Washington, D.C.-Northern Virginia area, which is area prone to high humidity, then the chances of your home developing a mold problem are much higher. Anything over a 55% RH level promotes mold and fungi growth. Often, heating and cooling systems will mask that there is a humidity problem, and it’s not until you actually test the room with a humidity sensor or plug in a dehumidifier that the condition is obvious.

Physical Signs of Mold:

  • Mildewy or musty smells in the house can be a sign of a mold problem. The presence of this odor does not mean you have a problem, but it should prompt you to look for further signs.
  • Increased or chronic allergy or respiratory problems, especially by all or most household members is a common sign that there is a problem. According to a Mayo Clinic study, almost all chronic sinus infections (we’re talking about 37 million Americans), are a result of mold.
  • When levels of toxins from black mold or other fungi reach high levels, toxic poisoning can occur. Common signs include headaches, decreased attention span, difficulty in concentration, and dizziness.
  • Signs of Mold in Your Home:
  • Water pipe leaks, especially those that have gone undetected, are perfect breeding grounds for mold.
  • Areas of the house that may have been damaged from flooding is a common site for mold growth.
  • If your house has ever had a leaky roof, one logical place to look for signs of mold is the attic. Look for evidence of water damage or mold growth in ceilings on the upper floors.
  • Use of humidifiers can raise the moisture level to a point where mold growth is encouraged. Regulate the humidity level so that it stays within a 55-60% RH range.
  • A damp basement or crawl space can be a haven for mold growth and go undetected for long periods of time. Water leaks from upper sources may also make their way down and add to the problem.
  • Yellowy colored stains on walls, ceilings, and carpets are a sign of excessive moisture. A green, brown or blackish color may indicate the presence of mold. A medical grade black light shone over the area will indicate a yellow glow if mold growth is present. Also look for areas that are bowing or swelling due to excess moisture. Paint peeling and loosening drywall tape are also common indicators.
  • Blocked gutters can cause water to be absorbed into walls through the roof or collect at the base of the foundation.
  • Signs of condensation around windows, walls or pipes, or rusting metal is a sure sign of high moisture that may lead to a mold problem.
  • Warped wood is a sure sign of excess moisture. A build up could cause mold growth.
  • Mold growth behind tiles in a humid bathroom is a common area for detection. The grout is porous, and once the water penetrates, dirt is trapped and encourages mold cultivation.
  • If the steam from dryers or other appliances are vented indoors, this also can be a sign of a problem area. Check for indications of mold around the vent and surrounding area.
  • Be on the lookout for the presence of any wet articles in the house such as rags, indoor clothes dryers or areas where there is poor ventilation.

What to Do:

When you see actual spores of mold growing, perhaps in a small area of the bathroom or shower, take immediate action before it spreads any further. You’ll need to identify the cause of the problem and check to see if it has spread to any other areas. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the area and dry completely. Any spores left behind will continue to grow once the area is exposed to any moisture.

For more information on mold growth, call RTS Environmental Services. We provide state of the art Mold & Moisture Inspections, Mold Identification, Mold Remediation, Air Quality Testing, Asbestos Inspection & Removal services in the Greater Washington D.C. Metropolitan area, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.